HC Deb 05 February 1974 vol 868 cc1026-7
10. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current level of flying being carried out by the university air squadrons and air experience flights of the Royal Air Force; and how this compares with the number of hours being flown before the fuel restrictions and with those flown by Regular RAF units in which cadets and Volunteer Reserve personnel are not associated.

Mr. Younger

To conserve fuel, university air squadrons are required to reduce their level of flying by 25 per cent. The target for air experience flights is a reduction of 80 per cent. Reductions in flying effort for other RAF units vary considerably according to the priority of their task. Certain essential activities such as air defence are exempted from fuel savings; other units have had their flying reduced further than the university air squadrons. Overall the RAF is required to make a fuel saving of 10 per cent. excluding the exempted areas.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the proportionately higher savings in respect of the AEFs and the UASs which are equipped with single-engine and piston-engine aircraft are quite disproportionate, particularly in view of the fact that these units are the only ones which have direct contact with the civil community and therefore can bring in the enthusiastic young boys and young men whom the Service so badly needs in the future?

Mr. Younger

I cannot help having a great deal of sympathy with that, but at a time when we have to conserve fuel supplies in the national interest we have to draw up a list of priorities. Perhaps my hon. Friend will agree that it is the active defence parts of our defence requirements which have to get the priority, however much we might like these particular activities to be preserved. It is worth saying that these economies by the university air squadrons and air experience flights have succeeded in saving about 20,000 gallons of fuel per month.

Mr. Normanton

While thanking my hon. Friend for his information, may I ask whether he is in a position to indicate the extent to which other branches of the Services are making a similar contribution to easing the fuel supply position?

Mr. Younger

Yes. The three Services taken together achieved in December a saving in total oil consumption in excess of 10 per cent. Certain areas of activity —for example, Northern Ireland operations and support—remain exempt from cuts, but all areas are saving what they can without impairing their operational capability. The House as a whole might like to congratulate the Services on this good effort.